Taught course

History by distance learning

University of Birmingham · Department of History

Entry requirements

Usually a 2:1 (Hons) in History or a related subject, or the international equivalent.

Months of entry


Course content

This two-year distance learning programme offers you the opportunity to explore a number of historical themes, drawing on the Department of History’s broad range of expertise. You may pursue one of three pathways through the MA: Contemporary History; Global History; or History of Christianity. This will determine your choice of core modules and the theme of your dissertation, but you also have the opportunity to study two optional modules in other areas which suit your particular interest.

You will follow one of three pathways through this MA: Contemporary History, Global History, or History of Christianity. Each pathway has two specific core modules:

Contemporary History pathway

Mass Society and Modernity 1914-1945

The module examines various aspects of the first half of the twentieth century, focussing particularly—but not only—on Europe and America. It examines the rise of mass society and modernity as social and cultural phenomena; the rise of mass politics in Europe, America, and beyond; the phenomenon of mass statelessness; the main strands of totalitarian ideology and liberal democracy; mass mobilisation in war and politics; economic and military conflict; and the growing ascendancy of the United States.

Globalisation since 1945

The module examines various aspects of global history in the second half of the twentieth century. It takes its cue from a growing literature which sees ‘globalisation’ as a key feature of global history over the last half century. It will explore key areas in the process of globalisation: the creation of international institutions of truly global reach after the Second World War, in particular those connected to the United Nations and Bretton Woods; decolonisation, and the subsequent globalisation of the nation-state as the standard state form within a new world order, and of new conceptions of state ‘technopolitics’ to go with it; the global political, military, and cultural confrontation of the Cold War; the international political economy of oil; the global politics of the environment and of population control; and the global spread of a universalising discourse of human rights.

Global History pathway

Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections

This module is an introductory survey of global history. It will draw on considerable chronological depth and regional breadth in order to present you with a truly global perspective. Content will range from the decline and fall of ancient empires, such as Rome and China, through new medieval empires in Afro-Eurasia, early modern voyages of exploration to the age of revolutions which gave birth to new nations in the midst of global political ruptures.

Making Sense of the World: Themes in Global History

This module will be split into two parts: ‘Understanding the Past’ and ‘Past Understandings’. The former deals with key issues in global history, such as: the formation of the world’s geography at the macro-level of continents; periodisation and the issues of how to distinguish between historical periods on such a grand scale; the creation of border regions; and the importance of the environment in human history. The second section will explore different ways in which past peoples have understood the global world. This will examine the importance of religion, debates about the status of indigenous knowledge and finish with an in-depth look at a key text bringing together many of the themes of the course, Amitav Ghosh’s In An Antique Land.

History of Christianity pathway

Writing the History of Christianity (double module)

This double module, which runs across two terms, provides a grounding in the methods and concepts required to study the History of Christianity while paying close attention to how this relates to the history of religion more generally. Key approaches will be introduced, including Church history, the cultural history of religion, anthropologies of Christianity, intellectual history, the history of Christian architecture and archaeology.

In the first term, these themes will be introduced through 'classic texts' covering periods from early Christianity to the present, each of which employs one or more of the above approaches. In the second term, we investigate these themes through primary sources from Lives of Constantine to oral history interviews. These core modules provide a wide range of concepts and approaches to choose from in embarking on your own research. They also provide grounding in key historical events and processes, from the spread of Christianity in the ancient world to the crusades, the emergence of African Christianities and globalised movements such as Pentecostalism.

You will also take two core modules in research and dissertation preparation:

Historical Methods

This module introduces you to approaches, theories and concepts that have shaped historical practice since the Second World War. These include developments such as the Annales School, historians’ response to Marxism and to anthropological theory, the linguistic turn, gender and critical social theory. The focus is on the application of ideas to historical practice, investigating how medievalists, early-modernists and modernists have adapted these approaches to their particular field of study.

Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation

This module covers what the dissertation project will entail. You will be expected to produce a short dissertation proposal for submission and you will be allocated a tutor who will supervise your dissertation preparation work.

Your remaining two modules are optional, and will be chosen from those available on the other pathways of the MA; other modules may be available in any given year.

Fees and funding

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. For more information, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
24 months

Course contact details

Dr Daniel Whittingham